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Lost World War II heroes are still fondly remembered

My cousin, Pfc. Russ Monafo, has been gone for 70 years. He was killed in the Leyte Gulf during World War II in October of 1944. Even though he was five years my senior, I still have fond memories of him from when I was a young teenager.

I recall taking the No. 3 streetcar at Shelton Square to spend weekends with him where he lived on 14th Street with his parents. I would go with him to the gas station on Vermont and 15th Street to be with his friends, who I called the big guys. They were all in their late teens like Russ was. He would take me to the Victoria Show on Ferry Street, the Circle Show on Connecticut Street or the Senate Show on Rhode Island Street. We would play on Vermont Street when it was newly paved in 1942 or go snow shoveling during the winter. Russ would take me swimming with him and the big guys by the foot of Massachusetts Avenue.

The last time I saw my cousin Russ was when he was marching down Main Street with the 722nd Engineer Co. to catch the troop train to go to war. We exchanged a few letters, then got word from his folks he had been killed in the Philippines. He was awarded a Purple Heart. I have so many more memories of his life.

As a tribute to his life, I had his picture put up alongside the other veterans and service members at the Naval Park at Canalside. He’s in the first row, second picture on the left, by the elevator. Cousin Russ, I still miss you.

Russ Grisanti

Buffalo